Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pray without ceasing . . .

Most of us are aware that this during this past week Christians have been focusing on prayer for unity. It is the annual "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity" first established in 1908 by Fr. Paul James Francis Watson, SA, founder of the Society of the Atonement. Additionally, 40 years have passed since the "Week of Prayer" has been jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches and the Vatican's Congregation for Ecumenism.

Locally, we are fortunate to be close to the birth place of the worldwide observance, in a small chapel located at the Graymoor Monastery, the home of the Friars of the Atonement. It was there that Fr. Paul, Mother Laurana and their then small group of religious first decided to dedicate this particular time to intense prayer for Christian unity (then they called it the "Chair of Unity Octave).

Much has happened since that first, quiet evening of prayer for unity. We are encouraged all the more, for the good, to cooperate with each other, both other Christians and with non-Christians alike. "People of faith" has become a synonym for those of upright spirit and good will.

Earlier this week, we were also asked to consider the memory of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a vociferous pioneer of the civil rights movement. Without his contributions, perhaps the rights that many groups of people now rightfully enjoy, would not have been brought to fruition. While each marginalized group has its own heroes, Dr. King, like Fr. Paul Wattson can be considered a lamp that light the way to righteousness and sobriety.

Dr. King had a dream of human equality and we are asked to continue this dream. Fr. Paul likewise dreamed of all Christians at the same table, for a common purpose, "so that the world may believe."

It is important that after the holiday is weeks past and the week of prayer of history for another year, we don't wake up and forget the dreams. How often do we dream at night, wake up with a recollection and continue remembering the details much past an hour or two? I am concerned that in this way, we "people of faith" will also forget the wonderful ideals that we have been called to reflect upon this week.

Much can be said in favor of unity and social justice. Few of us "of faith" would argue with either. But it does not take much, often only the smallest threat or inkling of fear, to entice cowardice instead of courage, and isolation rather than integration. I've seen it happen all too often.

Since this year's theme for the Week of Prayer is "Pray without ceasing . . . " (1 Thes. 5:17), let's try to do just that. Let's make our prayer, both contemplative and active, something that does not stop with this week. May Friday Jan 25, 2008 not be a finale to the niceties we express at this time.

Rather, let it be the beginning of a ceaseless quest for what is right, for what is just and for what is true. Let fear not stop the love that compels us to walk the path of the heart - the path that leads to unity for people of faith and indeed for all those who, together inhabit the earth.

May those who seek the Lord praise the Lord and may their hearts live forever.

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